Cybercrime is growing, including an alarming increase of cyberattacks. Leading the campaign for global cooperation when it comes to this is tech giant Microsoft. The company proposes one thing: a Digital Geneva Convention to thwart cyberwarfare.

Changes in industry standards

Microsoft led the call for international cooperation during the February RSA security conference. The company has also continued to promote the idea in conferences and policy briefs in the last month. The G7 followed by acknowledging the need for international standards when it comes to nation-state behavior on the web.

Microsoft turns to lessons learned in the past in invoking the Geneva Convention. Just as rules protect civilians during wartime, a digital version requires governments to protect the people from cyber attacks during peacetime.

The best chance for success lies with voluntary industry standards. International agreements will not be enough to fix issues in cyberspace. This would commit technology companies to assist during such crises and be the internet’s first responders.

growing problem can’t be ignored

Ukraine is one of the countries to suffer from a series of cyberattacks. In 2015, hackers focused on an electric transmission station north of Kiev, cutting off electricity for over a quarter-million Ukrainians. A year later, the transmission station was taken down. It was clear that the attacks had become more advanced.

Just this June, another ransomware attack affected the Kiev transport system, an airport, banks, radiation detection systems at Chernobyl, and pharmaceutical companies. The malware is believed to be a destructive version of the Petya ransomware, prompting security responders to call it “NotPetya”.

Additionally, state-sponsored hackers may have had a hand in the political campaigns in the USA, as well as the Netherlands and France.

These are just examples of how the world seems to have no limits when it comes to nation-state digital attacks. Clashing nations don’t just confine battles to land, air and sea. Now cyberspace is becoming a potential battleground. Governments are at risk of weaponising software to achieve their objectives for national security.

Call for governments to take action with digital geneva convention

Recent years have seen significant development in cybersecurity norms. Experts from 20 nations gathered their recommendations in July 2015 “aimed at promoting an open, secure, stable, accessible and peaceful ICT environment.”

Key aspects include barring government entities from doing malicious activity by using data and technology to damage other nations’ infrastructure.

Further inter-governmental agreements and discussions continue in line with this path. The call for the world’s governments to come together and establish stronger international norms for cybersecurity has never been more relevant.

We need a Digital Geneva Convention to address cyber threats. Experts in the technical field from governments, private companies, academia and more should come together to look closely at attacks. Only then would nations be able to collectively protect against nation-state cyberattacks and avoid compromising sensitive data that affect civilians and everyone else.

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